Saturday, July 26, 2008

Twins at Mid-Season

Okay, so the All-Star game was a week and a half ago, and the halfway mark of the season was even before that, so I'm a little late. But going into today's games, the Minnesota Twins are in second place in the AL Central, which I don't think anyone expected. The Cleveland Indians, who many people picked to win the division, are cellar dwellers, and totally out of the race. I was just hoping for the Twins to be a .500 team this year, I really wasn't expecting anything more, especially with the departure of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter.

The Twins' young pitchers have stepped up and delivered so far, well, with the exception of Boof Bonser. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey have all pitched effectively. They were all big question marks going into this season, as no one really knew how they would fare. And the Twins pick up of Livan Hernandez proved to be a good move, even though he's had some rough starts lately. They really needed a veteran arm to eat up some innings, and Hernandez has done the job. The biggest disappointment with the pitching staff is that Francisco Liriano's return from Tommy John surgery has been, well, disastrous. He's pitched just 10 innings, and has an ERA of 11.32. Hopefully more time in the minors will see him return to his 2006 form. The bullpen, as usual, has been rock solid, with Joe Nathan kicking some butt with an ERA of just 1.08! The Twins have had some good closers, like Jeff Reardon and Rick Aguilera, but I think Nathan might be the best ever.

The hitting has been solid. Justin Morneau is putting up decent numbers, though nothing like the gaudy stats he had halfway through 2007. Joe Mauer is having a good year, and he's finally hitting some home runs after a serious first-half slump. Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla have been great at getting on base any way they can, bunt, infield single, reached on an error, whatever. They've been fun to watch. Jason Kubel has done a good job of making up for the loss of Michael Cuddyer to injuries. Cuddyer had a breakout year in 2006, and a decent year in 2007, but he's been on the DL twice this year, and he hasn't shown the power he had in 2006. Mike Redmond, my favorite backup catcher of all time, celebrated his 10th year in the major leagues in May. He's never been sent down to the minors, which is extremely rare for a backup catcher! He's been effective off the bench as usual, batting .284 in very limited playing time.

It's been disappointing that the Twins haven't been able to knock the White Sox out of first place. We're so close! And then we play the Yankees at Yankee Stadium...and get swept. Oh, and speaking of historic Yankee Stadium, how about Morneau winning the home run derby and scoring the winning run in the All-Star game. Nice work, Justin.

In first-half baseball milestone news, Ken Griffey finally slugged his 600th home run, and put his long-time fans out of their misery of counting this down. I was so glad to see someone who has never been on steroids get to 600! If he hadn't been injured like a kajillion times since 2001, he would have hit number 600 about four years ago! I'm just happy he's past 600, now I just want him to pass Sammy Sosa, at 609! And Randy Johnson continues the long march towards 300 wins, right now he's at 291. Not likely he'll make it this year, but I would think he'd come back next year to get it. My off-the-wall pick for a pitcher to get to 300 wins is Jamie Moyer, the 45-year-old veteran now with the Phillies. Hey, it's possible! He won 14 games last year, and he's currently at 239 wins. That's more than Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale. All Moyer has to do is keep winning 10 games a year, and keep pitching until he's 50. It's totally doable. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath for that.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gov. Tim and the Veepstakes

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, but the big news here in Minnesota is that our Governor, Tim Pawlenty, may be John McCain's pick for VP. It's all part of McCain's "Pay Attention to Me while Obama's out doing Cool Stuff in other Countries!" strategy. And, boy, is it working! Um, right... But I think the real reason that McCain is staying in the US right now is that the countries he wants to visit don't actually exist anymore. His travel coordinator is having the toughest time finding out when Archduke Franz Ferdinand is available for a sit-down about the hard issues facing the Austro-Hungarian Empire! And I won't even talk about trying to reach the Holy Roman Empire, or Bohemia, or Gaul. (And I've heard that McCain is very worried about possible attacks from the Visigoths while he's in Rome.) I haven't even heard about Obama's position on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I think it's non-existent. (Much like said empire.) Okay, so John McCain is old and easily confused. He doesn't know how to use the Internets, so he can't just hop on The Google and check if, say, Czechoslovakia still exists or not. (Here's a hint-it doesn't!) And he's not really up on his geography, either. (Iraq does not border Pakistan. Sorry John!) Someone should really do him a favor and buy him a friggin' atlas from, oh, I don't know, maybe this century?

Anyway, back to Governor Tim. There's been lots of buzz about Governor Tim as McCain's running mate, and it's been going on for a while now. One of the local news stations had a very funny montage of Pawlenty at a news conference today saying about a dozen times that he's "no longer engaging in discussion or speculation" about the VP slot. Which just proves that obviously someone thinks he's VP material. Governor Tim has also been a national co-chair of McCain's campaign since January of 2007, at which point no one thought the Straight Talk Express had any gas left in the tank. So his loyalty may be rewarded. And Governor Tim would actually be a good choice for McCain. McCain needs pick someone younger, obviously. Of course, everybody is younger than John McCain, so that's not hard. Unless he picked Bob Dole. Which would make a great road movie. I can see the slogan now, "Grumpier Old Men 2008!"

Okay, so back to Governor Tim. Pawlenty is noticeably younger than McCain, which is good, although the flip side of that is that then McCain just looks, well, older. And there's not much you can do about that. Governor Tim has executive experience, he's from a totally different region, he's from a swing state that the GOP would love to win, and the state he governs just happens to be holding the GOP convention. And despite the fact that I disagree with Governor Tim on just about every policy issue, I can't help but like the guy a little bit. He seems very down to earth, and he really seems like a nice guy. (A nice Republican??? Isn't that an oxymoron?)

And Minnesota, despite it's reputation as a very liberal state, is actually kind of purplish. We have a very liberal Senator, Amy Klobuchar, and a very conservative Senator, Norm Coleman. We have narrowly elected Governor Tim to 2 terms, and we haven't elected a Democratic governor since 1986. So I think that the Republicans think that Minnesota could be up for grabs if Pawlenty is the VP. Minnesota has not voted for a Republican for President since Richard Nixon in 1972, but the 2000 and 2004 elections were fairly narrow Democratic victories.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. If Governor Tim is chosen, he'll break with the tradition of Minnesota producing only Democratic VP's-Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Hubert and Paul Wellstone are buried in the same cemetery, which is very fitting. Every day on my way to work I drive by their graves and think about what might have been. If Hubert would have beaten Nixon in 1968, this country would be a much different place. God, if any Democrat had won in 1968, Hubert, Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, the country would be a much different, and better, place.